Regina King Talks ‘Greatness,’ The Versatility of Black Women, ‘One Night in Miami’ And More

Award-winning actress and director Regina King sat down with The Hollywood Reporter and opened up about her success and creating a platform to tell Black stories. 

King is an NAACP, BET, Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy award-winning actress, producer, and director. From her role in the iconic and classic film “Friday” to her stellar performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” King has paved her own road in Hollywood. As great as she is, the 50-year-old questions how other greats have time to be as great as they are. 

“I guess I have a hard time with phrases like that,” King says about the word greatness. “Because what is that? It’s subjective. There are moments that I feel like I’ve always been great. (Laughs.) And then there are moments that I feel like there’s no such thing as greatness being a certain thing. Sometimes I look at people like Serena or Beyoncé, and I don’t understand how you can actually sleep and be able to put out what they put out. Like, how do you have the time to be you?”

She then thinks about beloved actor Chadwick Boseman and what he represented in his lifetime, not only as an actor but as a human being. “Then I think of people like Chadwick Boseman, and I’m like, He’s the best of who we are, I mean, as human beings. It almost feels like that is a whole other level of [greatness] because his heart was just so big, and he managed to live so selflessly. I remember the last time I saw him and knowing now what he knew then and how he was able to make me feel like the most special person in that moment, that working with me would be at the top of his list.”

She continued: “And after we finished talking, how he just stopped and held my hand and looked into my eyes, and in that moment, he made me feel so special. And to have a heart big enough to do that, knowing that I’m probably not going to see him again, is a level of selflessness that I do know. So, back to your original question of do I realize that I am operating on a level that feels comparable to what greatness may look like, I guess I don’t know.”

The conversation then turned to a discussion about Black women’s multifacetedness and how we’ve been perceived throughout history. “Yeah. I feel like just as Black women, we are so conditioned to not feel that it’s OK to want to be great. Hence how I came into my whole response when you asked that question. But also, something I find often with Black women is that you give us a little window, we’re going to kick it all the way open and take that moment. And sometimes it can be perceived as taking all the air out of the room or, ‘Wow, she is so big, she’s so [loud].’ But it’s also the very thing that makes us unique; it’s the history of what the Black woman has had to endure that has become part of our DNA. So when you see that window just crack open, you push through.”

King shared how her family unit, including her sons, sister, and mother, has always been her team. “My mother, my son and my sister are those people. My sister, Reina, is in the industry, but she’s keeping it real. And my mother is definitely grounding, always pushing me to dig a little deeper emotionally. And then my son, Ian, he’s 25, but in some ways he’s 12 and in other ways he’s 92. (Laughs.) So I have a really strong triad that helps me to hold myself accountable and be honest with how I’m feeling in the moment. Because sometimes I feel myself trying to push the emotion down. During the pandemic, I’ve discovered just how much pushing the emotion down away, protecting myself, that I’ve I been doing — I don’t think I’ve cried more since I was probably 14. It’s been cathartic in a lot of ways.”

The actress added that much of her life had been influenced by her sons. “So much of what I do, too, is influenced by my sons and how they view me. I want them to be proud of me — to be able to brag about their mom. You used the word “grounding,” and that’s them because they’re so honest. I was more scared to show them The Old Guard than anyone. What if they were like, ‘This is corny, Mom, your action sucks’? Also, so much of what we do is being away from them. And so, if I’m going to be away, it’s got to mean something, it’s got to be about something.” 

She says her sons’ influence helped her while directing her feature film directorial debut “One Night in Miami.” 

“When I read the script, I saw my son in these conversations. I could hear him and his Black friends. Growing up, I definitely had more Black friends than anything else. Sure, I had white friends and a couple Mexican friends, but the majority of my friends were Black. And for my son, it’s like the rainbow coalition, his friends. And when he was younger, he was always paying attention to our conversations, and he asked me, ‘Why when you guys talk’ — you guys being adults — ‘do you always have to ask what color someone was?’ And I was just like, ‘Wow, OK,’ and I said, ‘because it helps to put things in context.” He didn’t know what I meant, and I tried to explain it, but he really didn’t get it. He was around 11 or 12 at that time. In high school is when he started to understand and see it in context. Around the 11th grade, his rainbow coalition started to shift to be more Black,” King explained.

“And it was because certain things were happening in conversations that were making him go, ‘Woo, OK, this doesn’t feel right.’ Certain things that some of the white boys would say that he was like, ‘Yo, you shouldn’t feel comfortable saying that.’ And the fact that they were made him feel like, ‘OK, well, I am clearly doing something that is misleading because they think that that can actually come out of their mouths.’ And then his first time getting pulled over, having that experience. And don’t get me wrong, he still has friends of all colors, but he started to see some nights it needed to just be me and my brothers. And so having witnessed that journey for him, I could hear that these were possible conversations they were having. And they were conversations I know my father and my uncle were having. But also, me, being a celebrity, I could relate to the conversations from a space of, ‘What is your social responsibility supposed to be when you have a platform? Am I Black enough? Am I too Black?’ Just having those conversations with, like, Tisha [Campbell] and Tichina [Arnold], and I mention them because they are the ones I’ve known the longest in this business — since we were teenagers. So, I really connected to [the script] on an emotional level, and when I met Kemp [Powers], the first thing I said was, ‘I feel like this is a love letter to the Black man.’ And he was like, ‘You get it.’ 

King shares more. To read the full story, visit HollywoodReporter.com.

 

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